“Researchers have found that frequent recreational cannabis use – including marijuana, hashish, and hash oil – may be associated with elevated risk of periodontal (gum) disease.” The study recently published by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) is the first of its kind.

The use of marijuana results in salivary reduction and increased appetite. When that hunger strikes, the food group that users tend to reach for are cariogenic or sweet foods which in turn can increase the risk for decay. The lack of saliva (dry mouth) causes the sugar to stay in the mouth longer and also increases risk of decay.

Oral mucosa and gingival tissues exhibit changes such as Leukoedema, which may be in part due to the irritating marijuana smoke. Gingivitis and alveolar bone loss are a result of the chronic inflammation which lead to periodontal disease and an “increased prevalence of opportunistic infections.” Cannabis use can ultimately allow for the suppression of the immune system, thus reducing the body’s resistance to bacterial or viral infection.

The mechanism by which marijuana may act as a carcinogen is unclear. The difficulty exists when measuring the use of marijuana, tobacco, alcohol and other drugs in this population of patients.

Marijuana may have short-term benefits and provide medicinal therapy for a variety of ailments, but the long term effect on oral health should not be ignored.

If you have any changes to your oral health, unusual symptoms, or suspect you may have gum disease, schedule an appointment with your dentist right away.